There are few outward signs to indicate the Azerbaijani city of Sumgayit, a Soviet-era hub for the petro-chemical industry, is a seedbed of Islamic militancy. Shops and restaurants sell alcohol, and residents dress casually.
But, according to police, this smokestack city of 400,000, some 35 kilometers outside of the capital, Baku, is a major source of Azerbaijani Muslims who go to fight, and often die, in Syria’s civil war.
Thirty-six-year-old Sumgayit resident Rasul (last name withheld at his request), knows firsthand the reality of Sumgayit’s reputation. In 2013, his younger brother, Zaur, then 32, was killed along with five other people during a Syrian army attack on rebels near Aleppo. News of Zaur’s death reached Rasul via an Azerbaijani TV report, which showed his ID card and identified him as the commander of a group of international mercenaries.
Still struggling to make sense of it all, Rasul termed Zaur’s actions “wrong.”
To read the full story
Shahin Abbasov is a freelance correspondent based in Baku.